Euronews [Lyon, France]
February 3, 2023
By Filipa Soares
On February 13, the final report of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church will be released.
In October, the commission had already validated testimony from 424 witnesses, but most had already expired in legal terms.
However, Pedro Strecht, President of the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse in the Portuguese Catholic Church, says what they have is compelling: “The witness reports present a lot of identical information, a fact that reinforces the consistency of the testimonies and outlines serious situations existing over decades that become more evident the further you go back in time, and in some places, they assumed truly endemic proportions.”
“….taking the experience of other countries and what we are learning about reality, these figures will increase over the next few months”
Ricardo Barroso Psychologist and researcher
The initial figures presented by the commission came as no surprise to those who work in the field of sexual abuse in Portugal, including Carla Ferreira, a technical adviser to the board of the Portuguese Association for Victim Support (APAV).
“It’s a significant number, but we have to be aware that this number is just ‘a drop’ in this area, explained Ms Ferreira. “We already have this notion in relation to a more general perspective of sexual abuse, that is, we have a clear perception that only about a third of situations are formally reported.”
And Ricardo Barroso, a psychologist and researcher in the field, believes an even more alarming scenario will emerge: “I believe it is to be expected, taking the experience of other countries and what we are learning about reality, these figures will increase over the next few months.”
The work of the commission so far has been widely praised. In 2022, it received an award from the APAV.
“We have the perception that uncovering situations like this is always a positive development, not only for those who were targeted by acts of violence but also for all of us as a society, because it makes us a more attentive society,” said Carla Ferreira.
For Ricardo Barroso, it’s what happens in the future that is also just as important: “Victims have to understand that what happened to them cannot happen again and the Catholic Church has to clearly and fully demonstrate that this will not happen again and that it will put into practice a set of gestures, a set of concrete actions, like denunciations, like support from the psychotherapeutic point of view that it can offer even to the members of the Catholic Church, like the accountability of the aggressors, like the support that it can give to potential victims in the future. “
The Catholic Church said it is prepared to “take appropriate measures.”
On March 3, there will be a Plenary Assembly of the Portuguese Catholic Episcopate, to further analyse the commission’s final report.